The midterm elections are right around the corner, presenting a perfect opportunity to exercise our right to vote — despite what Fox News might suggest. But as critical as casting ballots is to ensuring democracy and expanding equality, there is another important albeit often overlooked way that Americans can vote: with our wallets.
In the context of our capitalist democracy, dollars aren't just green pieces of paper we exchange for goods and services, they represent our values and our priorities. If we invest in women-friendly and LGBT-friendly companies and divest from those with ties to anti-equality groups and politicians, we have a chance to dramatically impact our country's political and social landscape. Not for nothing, "money talks" is one of this country's more ubiquitous expressions.
"Women should vote on their wallet and their rights — both on Election Day and when they shop," Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, told Mic.
With that in mind, here are some examples of companies to avoid, as well as few we should patronize:
1. Hobby Lobby
Hobby Lobby took its fight against women's health care all the way to the Supreme Court — and won. Claiming that it should be exempt from covering birth control in its employer-sponsored health care plan for religious reasons, the Oklahoma City-based retailer helped set a dangerous legal precedent to deny women, as well as LGBT communities, certain rights.
Hooters' blatant hypersexualization of women is well known at this point, but that's not the only reason why feminists should steer clear of this infamous chain. In 2010, two of its former waitresses filed a lawsuit alleging weight discrimination in what is probably the least surprising lawsuit in recent history.
One woman claimed her "civil rights were violated when she was placed on 'weight probation' during an annual evaluation and offered a gym membership," while another claimed she was fired because she didn't fit into the extra small uniform. Keep it classy, Hooters.
3. Curves International
This woman-only gym franchise has made a fortune helping women get into shape. But its founder, Gary Heavin, has contributed to anti-choice organizations that are aligned with Operation Save America, a group that lobbies Congress for anti-woman policies and proudly proclaims its goal of "unashamedly tak[ing] up the cause of preborn children in the name of Jesus Christ" on its website.
The big oil company has a long history of fighting against LGBT rights. As the Huffington Post reported in 2013, Exxon "has been fighting for years against non-discrimination protection and equal benefits coverage for their employees." Moreover, before Exxon acquired Mobil in 1999, Mobile had "policies to protect discrimination against gay men and lesbians, and even offered benefits to same-sex couples," but Exxon took that all away, according to LGBT news site the Dallas Voice.
In perhaps a new low for the company, the Human Right Campaign gave the massive employer a score of below zero on its 2012 Corporate Equality Index, which measures LGBT equality and workplace protections. And in July, a lawsuit that alleged the gas and oil company discriminated against LGBT employees as part of its hiring practices was allowed to move forward in Illinois, according to the Washington Blade.
5. American Apparel
The clothing chain first gained notoriety for its former CEO's sexist and unethical behavior. Dov Charney, who American Apparel's board ousted in June, mired the company in scandal, ranging from his championing of uncomfortably sexual ads featuring highly sexualized young women to sexual harassment lawsuits, allegations of a personal "sex slave" — and financial fraud.
While the board made the right decision to fire Charney, it took them entirely too long, and they will need to earn back the trust of their consumers.
Sorry, beer lovers, but if you value women's rights you better put down that Blue Moon, Coors Light, Keystone Ice, Miller, Killians or Fosters (or any of these myriad other alcoholic beverages).
"When it comes to women's reproductive rights, both [Board Chairman] Pete and Joe Coors have (unsuccessfully) run for political office on platforms that would deny women bodily autonomy," according to Salon. "In his bid for Senate in 2004, Pete touted his anti-abortion stance. And to prove to voters how passionate he was about limiting women's rights, he committed to changing the Coors Co. health plans so that abortion coverage would be removed."
And Joe Coors, Jr. — who, according to a statement from MillerCoors, never worked for the brewery — is no angel, either. He donated to a "personhood" amendment, calling himself a visionary for doing so in the process.
The company also has a terrible track record with unions, the LGBT community and minorities.
7. Urban Outfitters
In addition to perpetrating many a fashion faux pas, Urban Outfitters has also earned a reputation as being a company that is bad for women and members of the gay community. The clothing chain's CEO is notoriously anti-gay and doesn't seem to mind the company's severe underrepresentation of women when it comes to leadership positions.
8. Cracker Barrel
Cracker Barrel has been frustrating advocates with its overtly racist and anti-gay practices for years. According to the Huffington Post, 11 employees were fired in 1991 for not displaying "normal heterosexual values," and in 2004, the U.S. Justice Department "found that the chain restaurant had segregated customers, seated and served white customers before black customers, and allowed for white servers to refuse to wait on black customers."
Wal-Mart seems to be constantly getting itself into and out of scandals — they were recently critiqued for a "Fat Girl" section of their Halloween costumes. But the massive big-box chain is no friend of women in other ways as well.
Its systematic and institutionalized discrimination against its female employees made its way to the Supreme Court in 2011. As USA Today reported, the women who signed on to the class action suit "described how male workers with less seniority were promoted and paid more. They have talked of a culture of female stereotyping, of being called 'Janie Qs' and told to wear cosmetics and 'doll up.'" Ultimately, SCOTUS dismissed the case.
10. Eden Foods
Not only did Eden Foods sue the Obama administration over covering contraception as per the Affordable Care Act's mandate, but for a long time, its CEO managed to exclude birth control coverage for employees by classifying it as a "lifestyle drug." (In fairness, Viagra was also excluded. So that's something?)
11. Abercrombie & Fitch
Mike Jeffries, the CEO (and former chairman) of Abercrombie & Fitch, has a history of fat-shaming young women. According to Business Insider, the retailer had a longtime policy that prohibited stocking "XL or XXL sizes in women's clothing because they don't want overweight women wearing their brand." What's more, Jeffries' marketing plan relies solely on selling sex.
"That's why we hire good-looking people in our stores. Because good-looking people attract other good-looking people, and we want to market to cool, good-looking people. We don't market to anyone other than that," Jeffries told Salon in 2006,
After word of the comments became widespread, the company was forced to apologize and said it would begin to stock larger sizes starting in 2014. The damage is clearly already done, however, as Abercrombie's years of exclusionary tactics paving the way for problematic newcomers like the "one size fits most" company Brandy Melville.
12. Waffle House
In 2012, the breakfast food chain's CEO was accused of demanding sexual acts from a female employee over the course of nearly a decade in exchange for letting her keep her job. In 2013 this scandal was compounded after two more women came forward with allegations of sexual harassment against the CEO. And in August, he found himself mired in a court case involving a sex tape. And still, apparently had kept his job. Waffles with a side of skeeze? No thanks.
13. Carl's Jr.
The burger chain — which has no problem selling its food with sex — was founded by vehemently anti-choice, anti-gay crusader Carl Karcher. According to AlterNet, "He was reviled by abortion rights activists for his contributions to anti-abortion groups and his oft-repeated story about talking a Carl's Jr. employee out of an abortion. Gay rights groups dubbed his hamburgers 'bigot burgers' after Karcher supported a 1978 proposition that would have allowed school boards to fire teachers who were gay or advocated homosexuality."
14. Any one of these 46 companies
1. Tyndale House
2. Freshway Foods
3. Johnson Welded Products
4. Willis Law
5. Trijicon, Inc.
6. Barron Industries Inc.
7. Midwest Fastener Corp.
8. Electrolock, Inc.
9. Zumbiel Packaging
10. Encompass Develop, Design & Construct, LLC
11. Holland Chevrolet
12. Autocam Corp.
13. Domino's Farms
14. Mersino Management
15. Eden Foods, Inc.
16. MK Chambers Co.
17. M&N Plastics
18. Mersino Dewatering, Inc.
19. Korte & Luitjohan Contractors, Inc.
20. Triune Health Group
21. Grote Industries
22. Tonn and Blank Construction
23. Lindsay, Rappaport & Postel, LLC
24. Hart Electric, LLC
25. Ozinga Brothers
26. O'Brien Industrial Holdings
27. American Pulverizer Co.
28. Annex Medical Inc.
29. Sioux Chief Manufacturing
30. O'Brien Industrial Holdings
31. Bick Holdings, Inc.
32. SMA, LLC
33. QC Group
34. Feltl and Co.
35. Randy Reed Automotive
36. Doboszenski & Sons, Inc
37. Hastings Automotive
38. Stinson Electric
39. Hercules Industries, Inc.
40. Continuum Health Partnership & Connessione
41. Cherry Creek Mortgage Co.
42. Beckwith Electric Co.
43. Geneva College
44. Weingartz Supply Co.
45. Sharpe Holdings Inc.
46. Catholic Benefits Association
It's not all bad news, however. Amidst these anti-equality behemoths, however, are plenty of pro-equality companies who would love to accept your hard-earned cash. Here are a few you should consider supporting when given the chance.
Verizon recently partnered with MAKERS and Girls Who Code to encourage more young women to enter the STEM field, which traditionally is dominated by men. In July, the company released the commercial above, which takes aim at socially constructed ideals of what it means to be girly.
Buying menstrual products may be a necessary evil, but you can feel good about buying Always pads. The company has entered into two partnerships for the benefit of girls worldwide. In 2011, Always partnered with UNESCO to promote literacy among young girls, a partnership that continues today. And most recently, it partnered with Ban Bossy to empower young girls. And then there's their fun #LikeAGirl campaign, which challenges stereotypes of girls being weak.
Updated Oct. 30: The MillerCoors entry has been updated to reflect the job titles of the parties mentioned.